Executives at Ubisoft, major video game publisher, accused of sexual misconduct
Ubisoft Entertainment, publishers of popular video games like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs, has been accused of looking the other way in response to claims of sexual misconduct by senior management at company offices in Canada and France.
This past June, over 100 Ubisoft Toronto employees including local managing director, Alexandre Parizeau, approached top management at company headquarters in Montreuil, France, with a letter that stated: “We, the undersigned employees of Ubisoft Toronto, are coming to you with grave concerns about ongoing reported harassment and an inability to feel safe or protected within our own studio.”
The letter was soon backed up by a detailed investigation into the scandal by Bloomberg Businessweek that quoted employees comparing Ubisoft to a “frat house.” They cited company meetings held at strip clubs, inappropriate touching and comments, and disregarded human rights complaints. Several female employees also made rape allegations against their superiors. The employees also said leadership executives ‘appeared to be immune to HR complaints’ because a toxic work culture had become so normalized.
Three executives - Maxime Béland, Tommy François and Serge Hascoët – were singled out by name on Twitter and in multiple media articles.
Béland, who founded the Toronto office, was accused of choking a female colleague at an office party and then claiming that he did not remember it. Employees noted that it was especially hard to confront Béland because his wife was the head of Human Resources.
Hascoët, chief creative officer in France, was accused of making sexually explicit comments to staff, according to a report in Libération newspaper, as well pushing his colleagues to drink excessively. He was also alleged to have given co-workers marijuana cakes without their knowledge. François, vice-president of editorial and creative services and one of Hascoët’s top lieutenants, was accused of making sexual propositions and genital grabbing.
In addition, employees have accused Ubisoft of sexism in the games that the company creates. One former employee tweeted: “The gentleman from editorial said "the protagonist must be a STRAIGHT WHITE ALPHA MALE" and underlined it in red marker, stamping a foot, for emphasis. I was demoted over this issue, and quit.” Another tweeted: “Ubi execs said "women don't sell" EVERY SINGLE TIME.”
In an initial response to allegations, Ubisoft redistributed Hascoët’s power to seven other men within the company.
After the allegations blew up in the media, Ubisoft fired Béland, François and Hascoët and vowed to overhaul and remake the human resources department. “Reactions to misconduct are encouraging,” one employee told Reuters. “We await details on the editorial team revamp to determine the impact on future productions.”
However others disagreed. Longtime Ubisoft designer Kim Belair, told Bloomberg that the terminating several of their most problematic employees was not sufficient. “The entire mindset of the company has to change,” Belair said. “These bad actors were allowed to exist in this system. We have to reevaluate this system. We have to look at why this culture exists.”
So far the games have not been diversified much either. A few years ago UbiSoft designers proposed adding female players to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but top management scuttled the plan. "It's double the animations, it's double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets," Ubisoft’s creative director Alex Amancio told Polygon, a gaming website. "Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work."